11 April 2017
PES Group in the CoR deeply concerned by changes to the Hungarian Higher Education Act

PES Group in the CoR deeply concerned by changes to the Hungarian Higher Education Act

Based on the CoR Resolution of 23 March on the Rule of Law in the EU from a local and regional perspective, CoR PES Group President Catiuscia Marini, President of the Umbria Region (Italy), has voiced serious concerns over recent activities of the Hungarian government.

The PES President condemns the changes to the Hungarian Higher Education Act, which now makes it compulsory for foreign universities operating in Hungary to also run a university in their country of origin. This law change, based on false allegations of irregularities, has a direct discriminatory impact upon the operation of the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest. The law represents in its content and in the way it was adopted an unacceptable attack on fundamental values of the European Union, such as the freedom of research and academia, the regard for due process and non-discrimination. President Marini also expressed her disappointment at the signing-into effect of the law by Hungarian president János Àder despite serious doubts about the law's constitutionality.

"As the CoR resolution states, given that European integration is built on shared values and principles, a violation of the rule of law in one country is a threat to the legal order of the whole of the EU", highlighted Catiuscia Marini. "In the same vein, draft legislation on restricting the activities of non-governmental organisations receiving funding from abroad (including those funded from EU programmes) is contrary to the principle that the democratic process needs vibrant civil society organisations which are free to represent different points of view."

The PES Group is also deeply concerned by the 'national consultation' questionnaireentitled "Let's Stop Brussels" and sent to over 8 million Hungarian voters at the end of last week. The Group underlines that European integration is dependent on the respect of jointly taken decisions. 

"It is deeply troubling  that a Member State government embarks on a tendentious and negative campaign rather than seeking citizens' views in an open ended process of debate involving all sections of society and different levels of governance", stressed Marini.

The PES Group  fears that the Hungarian government puts the country in an isolated position, which could have negative repercussions also for Hungarian cities and regions that benefit from European integration and EU funds. "This is a situation we would very much like to avoid as we consider that each level of government should be held responsible only for its own acts", underlined Marini.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Yoomi Renström (PES/SE), Chair of the CoR SEDEC commission, underlined in this respect: "The freedom of research, teaching and learning is fundamental not just for democracy, but also for our economic prosperity and for building a sustainable future. At the same time, research and education thrive when they are not confined by national borders. We cannot allow this freedom to be curtailed in any country of the EU – not least because this would damage the cities and regions hosting prestigious academic institutions which contribute to local development".